Asia by rail: 6 of the most scenic routes for train travel
Asia is beautiful with its natural and man-made treasures, starting from the vastness of the Gobi Desert to the mosaic minarets of Uzbekistan. But how to enjoy all these beauties? One of the best ways is by rail. Yes, all of Asia’s treasures can be explored on a train journey, as Asia is literally riddled with rail lines. We at TravelAsk have decided to show you six of the best routes that will allow you to discover the most beautiful corners of this part of the world.
Sri Lanka: from Kandy to Ella
The small train departs from the colonial-style city of Kandy and rushes through tea plantations and scenic hillsides to the remote village of Ella, which is located in the heart of the mountains. The journey takes about seven hours, but it’s worth it! The mountainous terrain here is very beautiful, and the route is considered one of the best in the world for train travel. On the way to Ella, the train often travels in fog and gives the impression that it is floating in the clouds.
China: From Jiayuguan to Xi’an
On the edge of the Gobi Desert, where the westernmost passage in the Great Wall of China is located, there is the city of Jiayuguan, which is very different from the Chinese metropolises. From here the train leaves for Xi’an, one of the oldest cities in China. This is where the Great Silk Road ended and trade caravans headed here. The trip lasts 18 hours and covers a lot of scenery, dark and exciting, including the snow-capped Qiliangshan Mountains. On this trip, you will not only enjoy the local views, but also get a sense of the scope and size of the country.
Malaysia: From Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur
Another scenic route through another Asian country, Malaysia (from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur). The western part of the peninsula has an excellent rail network, and train fare is quite cheap. And sitting in an air-conditioned carriage and enjoying the tropical atmosphere and forested hills in densely populated Malaysia is a pleasure.
Japan: Gono Line
The Gono railway line connects the two cities of Goshogawara and Noshiro (hence, incidentally, the name of the line, from the first syllables). The road stretches for about 150 kilometers and includes 43 stations. Gono runs along the coast of the Sea of Japan and captures many interesting places: for example, the snow-capped Shirakami mountains, the sunset view of Senjojiki, included in the list of “the hundred best sunsets in Japan”. The train also passes through a short tunnel (only 9.5 meters), and from the final stations of the route it is just a short walk to the main natural attractions of the Land of the Rising Sun: the thermal spring Furofushi, overlooking the sea, the blue pond Aoike.
Vietnam: From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
There are more than a thousand train lines all over Vietnam. The trains here are comfortable, with air conditioning and comfortable berths. The journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City is long: it takes about three days. But passengers usually have no time to be bored. There are especially picturesque places between Hue and Da Nang: the train goes along the South China Sea, just a few meters away. So you can watch the fishermen casting their nets into the water or sitting peacefully on the shore, admire the deserted white beaches, dense tropical forests, rice paddies and herds of buffalo.
Uzbekistan: From Urgench to Bukhara
Uzbekistan’s major cities are connected by high-speed Afrosiab trains, but the most scenic road is between Bukhara and Urgench. Slow Soviet trains still run here, but that’s the beauty of the route: the 12-hour ride is quite leisurely. That is why you can see the Kyzylkum desert in all its glory, and along the tracks – camels, abandoned mosques covered with sand, and tombstones. On the station platforms, women in brightly colored dresses sell pickles and hard-boiled eggs.
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Top 10 most beautiful roads in the world
Travelers get to see with their own eyes such delightful things that many have not seen even in pictures. Or have seen, but in a photoshopped form. Just driving down one of the roads on this list with the window open, shooting the view with a camera, is already a great joy, one might even say, the highest measure of aesthetic pleasure. One can only guess what bright and positive emotions people get when they drive on these roads.
If you’re going on a trip to these countries don’t forget to take a breeze down an amazing road. You will return home with amazing experiences to share with your loved ones. If you’re not going anywhere, just watch and enjoy!
We offer you the rating of the most beautiful roads in the world: photos and descriptions of places worth driving on.
10. Atlantic Road (Norway)
If you’re afraid of water, the Atlantic Road will probably cause you panic, because the road goes almost on the ocean itself, jumping from one island to another.
It’s a truly unique structure – there are 6 bridges that make up the route, which covers a mere 8.5 kilometers! The main bridge is called Storseisundet which means ‘Bridge to Heaven’ and it’s even more impressive to cross it during the stormy autumn months when the waves crash into the islets and crash against the supports of the bridge. Wear your seatbelt better when you hit the road!
Interesting fact: Storseisundet, the main attraction in Norway, does not stand flat like other bridges, but wriggles. If you look at it from a certain angle, it seems that passing cars fly upwards (or fall into the ocean…).
9. Florida Keys (USA).
The legendary Florida Keys Bridge stretches over the Atlantic Ocean. It is hard to deny yourself the pleasure of driving along the most beautiful road in the United States, and you shouldn’t deny yourself if you are lucky enough to be there.
The Overseas Highway literally means “the highway on the surface of the sea. It is not a case where the road exists to get one to some place – it may exist for the enjoyment and the journey itself.
What is this road? Just imagine – the length of the route is 203 km, includes 40 bridges, blue ocean waters, endless expanse, coral reefs, tropical incredible scenery!
Interesting fact: scenes from Hollywood movies were filmed on the bridge: “License to Kill”, “True Lies”, etc.
8. The Great Circle (USA)
The U.S. is an amazing country that is famous for its natural beauty and has one of the best places in the world in the championship of entertainment and tourism. All travelers and collectors of experiences should certainly pay attention to the Great Circle ! There are so many exciting places along the way that you’re sure to have something to tell your friends.
The theme of the Wild West leaves some unconcerned – the lands of the Great Circle extend westward from the Rocky Mountains. The Great Circle was originally called a bus tour, from which the area got its name.
Crossing the Great Circle, you can take in four states: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, where you’re sure to find something to see. But you’ll have to give it more than a day, because there are most of the U.S. national parks, which you won’t be able to see quickly.
7. Chuisky Tract (Russia)
The Chuisky Tract is the most ancient route from Siberia to Asia and the most picturesque road in Russia. The road, 968 km long, begins in Novosibirsk and ends at the border with Mongolia.
Driving on this bridge is like crossing the whole Russia. There are a lot of interesting things to see along the way: Lake Teletskoye (if you turn left), the foot of Belukha (right), and if you don’t turn off and drive straight ahead, you will see the Kuraisk steppe at the foot of the North-Chuisky ridge.
The Chuisky tract is in demand among motorists – this is caused not only by its picturesque scenery, but also by the large number of remarkable places located near the route.
6. Pamir Road (Tajikistan)
The Pamir highway is the highest highway connecting the Kyrgyz city of Osh, the Tajikistan city of Khorog and Dushanbe.
One of the most breathtaking stops along the way is Lake Karakul in Tajikistan. It is located at an altitude of 3,914 meters above sea level. It is from this point begins the steep ascent to the islands of the great Pamir.
You should take into consideration that the Pamir highway is open for traveling only in warm season, and there is a reason for that – in winter there is a high probability of getting under avalanches. Travellers will see a truly Martian landscape, stretching down to the valley on the Tajik side: flocks of sheep, rocks and gorges, lack of vegetation.
5. Verdon Gorge (France)
Today the Verdon Gorge is the largest canyon in Europe. Its depth is up to 800 m, and its length covers 25 km of picturesque area. Despite the fact that on the scale it is inferior to the Arizona Canyon, one can say that it surpasses it in beauty.
Passing motorists see the wonders of nature: lavender fields, mountains, clean air. Being in Provence, this gorge must be visited. On the way you can stop in the village Moistiers Sainte Marie and have a meal in one of the restaurants.
Interesting fact: in 1905, speleologist Edward Alfred Martel led an expedition to explore this area no one previously knew about.
4. Tianmen Road (China)
The Tianmen Road in China is something incredible! The asphalt ribbon is 11 km long and rises to a mark of 1,300 meters. There are 99 bends along the way, which is symbolic for the Chinese. Not everyone can withstand this challenge, so people with panic attacks and fear of heights are better to refrain from the ride.
It’s easy to take a ride down this road by visiting the Tianmen National Park and purchasing a ticket. A Chinese driver will drive all the intrepid tourists down at breakneck speed! It is best to sit by the window – this ride will never be forgotten.
Interesting fact: there have never been any accidents on this road because all the drivers are professionals.
3. The Golian Tunnel (China)
The tunnel is located high in the mountains of Henan Province in China. It has only been used for a few decades, but the tunnel has become the most famous road in the world, thanks to its specific appearance, interesting location and design. It is located in the rock.
Three dozen villagers worked on the construction of Golian and with their persistence created the unimaginable, which once again confirms the fact that the Chinese are very hardworking and patient people. Thanks to their persistence, they succeeded in digging a tunnel 1200 m long into the rock! Nowadays, this place is a curiosity, and tourists eagerly come here.
The Trans-Fagaras highway (Romania)
This picturesque narrow road is recognized as one of the most beautiful roads in the world. For less than 40 years of its existence it managed to become a trademark of Romania.
The Trans-Fagaras highway is really impressive – along the mountain road there are a lot of natural and historical attractions, so a lot of tourists come here.
The car windows offer fabulous views: waterfalls, rivers, picturesque valleys, fields with wheat sprouting, rocky mountain slopes, etc. All this is open for your eyes!
1. Stelvio Pass (Italy)
The Stelvio Pass, located in Italy at 2,758 m, is the highest paved pass in the eastern part of the Alps. In height (only 12 m!) It is second only to the Alpine pass of Col de l’Iseran, which is located in France.
This road is attractive not only for its scenic views, but also for its winding nature. Driving along the road, you have mixed feelings – admiration on the one hand, and a daze of dread on the other… The fear of knowing that you are driving along a narrow road literally over a precipice.